Emrys Roberts, 61, has been jailed for eight months after killing a patient he was transferring to another hospital when he crashed into an oncoming van in April 2021.
The court heard that he failed to secure the patient’s stretcher harness and drove on the wrong side of the road before the crash.
Janet Winspear, 76, was killed in the crash because Roberts and a colleague “secured her by the use of three straps by the legs, hips and chest” but “they did not use the over the shoulder harness that their training required them to do,” the prosecutor said.
Roberts previously denied causing death by careless driving but changed his plea to guilty before his trial.
He was sentenced to eight months in prison at Caernarfon Crown Court last Friday.
He was also disqualified from driving for 16 months.
Patient’s “greatest fear was a road traffic accident”
The court heard that Mrs Winspear had been recovering from a stroke when she was picked up by Roberts in a non-emergency ambulance to be transferred to a different hospital.
But Roberts drifted into the opposite lane on the single carriageway of the A470 near Dolgellau.
The court heard Mrs Winspear’s “greatest fear was a road traffic accident” after losing a family member in a crash.
Prosecutor James Coutts said Mrs Winspear was being taken on a 19-mile (30km) journey to an appointment at Dolgellau Hospital.
But the grandmother died on the way there from “severe chest trauma” after being “thrown” against the interior of the ambulance, he added because over the shoulder harness was not used by the ambulance staff when their training required them to do.
“I honestly don’t know what happened”
The court heard the oncoming van driver, who suffered a fractured sternum, said he could “clearly see” Roberts before the crash.
He said: “His eyes were wide open and he was looking straight ahead with a vacant look on his face.
“He wasn’t slumped at the wheel or looking at anything.”
Roberts told police: “I honestly don’t know what happened. I was going to the hospital.”
Roberts joined the fire service in 1984 before retiring in 2018 to care for his terminally ill wife.
Richard Edwards, defending, said Roberts was driving at 37mph (60km/h) in a 50mph (80km/h) zone at the time of the crash.
He added: “The defendant wants to know what happened to him that day. He has maintained that he has no recollection of the incident.”
Not complying with harness requirement was “working practice” at the time
Mr Edwards said it was “working practice” of staff at the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust to not comply with the harness requirement at the time.
The court heard the trust has reissued its guidance following the death.
The family of Mrs Winspear, a former fire service call handler who was originally from Surrey, said she loved gardening, animals, music and films, and lived with the “greatest fear of a road traffic accident”.
In a victim impact statement, her son Michael said his father died 14 months after the crash after her death left a “gaping hole” in his life.
He said: “Although we won’t fully understand it all, we do know this should not have happened to anyone, least of all someone who had many years of life ahead of them.”
Recorder John Philpotts described it as a “serious case” because “the deceased was vulnerable”.